Walking is an important aspect in becoming physically active.
While walking is the most accessible form of exercise, many older adults are not able to do this basic form of exercise because of physical difficulties.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the obstacles that hinders many seniors from walking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD refers to a “group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems.” The disease includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema and in some cases asthma.
The airflow obstruction causes dyspnea or labored breathing. It also causes fatigue.
Many patients with COPD report that they walk slower compared to people of the same age. They also report of having to constantly rest to breathe. Some even report of not leaving their homes because of breathlessness.
The CDC reported that these groups are likely to suffer from COPD:
Older adults aged 65-74 years old;
Those who are unemployed, retired or unable to work;
Those who are divorced, widowed or separated;
Former or current smokers; and
Those with a history of asthma.
Rollators are often prescribed by health care professionals to patients with COPD. A rollator is basically a walking frame with 3 or 4 wheels.
A study by Hill et al. found that COPD patients that were provided with a rollator were most satisfied with its effectiveness.
Another study by Vaes et al. found that rollators improve the self-paced outdoor walk distance and time in individuals with moderate and advanced COPD.
In a study by Probst et al., the researchers found that the use of a rollator improves the walking distance of patients with COPD. When using the rollator, the Probst et al. study found that COPD patients tend to experience less dyspnea or labored breathing. The Probst et al. study also added that “it can be ensured that a rollator, a device with a relatively low cost, could contribute to keep these patients more active and independent.”
The Probst et al. study added that these factors might have contributed to the reduced labored breathing of patients with COPD whenever they use a rollator:
The researchers suggested that the forward-lean position when using this assistive device contributes to the reduction of dyspnea sensation as this increases the respiratory muscles maximal force generating capacity.
The researchers also suggested that emotional aspects could have played an important role in reducing dyspnea. COPD patients are known to experience more dyspnea than others when performing the same amount of work. The researchers suggested that the use of a rollator may have given COPD patients more security and confidence, consequently reducing labored breathing.